Selling on Etsy

How to Sell on Etsy

There is nothing like the charm of handmade or vintage jewelry, clothing, beauty accessories, and other accessories and furnishings for home, garden and everyday life. Etsy, founded 2005, is a place where entrepreneurs can sell their homemade or vintage goods and customers with an eye for beauty and style can buy those goods to cherish for themselves.

You will be joining a flourishing e-commerce community if you have decided to start selling on Etsy. The key to succeeding on Etsy is knowing the best way to plan, design and manage your shop, so that your shop will be visited frequently and you can effectively gain customers who will buy your products on Etsy.

The following will give you valuable insight on how to have a popular and profitable Etsy shop that customers will come back to and purchase from again and again.

Planning Your Etsy Shop

Business Plan

Business plan sketch

If you’re creating this business just for yourself, then you don’t have to go overboard and spend too much time as you don’t want to be held back from launching your Etsy shop.

However, you should try to spend a few hours on a business plan as it can help you come up with ideas for your business and creating a unique brand and what your competitive advantage is so that your business stands out among the hundreds of thousands of other Etsy shops out there with their own brands. Additionally, a good business plan will help you figure out how to handle money matters, because your business is going to depend on careful budgeting, pricing, and gaining of profits from selling your products.

Woman writing a business plan

First, you need to come up with a business name.

Come up with a name that creatively expresses the type of products you are selling, and make sure the name you want isn’t already taken by another Etsy seller or even just another company out there selling something.

Next, you need to come up with a company description. Write a concise, informative tagline that will briefly describe what your products are and what they are for. You will also want to do a market analysis which entails researching your industry so that you  can figure out how to distinguish your products from competitors. It also includes figuring out who your target audience will be: men, women, teens, or children, and how your products can meet their unique needs.

While you are writing your mission statement, you will be keeping this target market in mind, because first and foremost, you are marketing to them, since they are the ones who are most likely to buy your products or have your products be purchased for them by someone else. Your mission statement should include a bit about who you are, what inspired you to start your Etsy shop, and what it is you want to accomplish by offering your products to Etsy shoppers.

Planning Money Matters

How much money will you be able to put aside for materials to create or maintain products you are selling, as well as boxes, cases or small decorative bags you may want to use to package your product?

How much money will it take to take trips to and from the store to buy these materials, or to go to the post office to ship orders?

Commonly, buyers pay for shipping, so this may not be an extra expense for you unless you don’t mind offering free shipping. Depending upon the size of your business, along with possibly hiring a photographer or graphic designer, you may also want to hire extra people to go out and buy materials for you, help you prepare orders for shipping, or keep up with customer service requirements.

Make sure your product pricing not only covers your materials costs, travel costs and any possible costs you incur to pay people who will help you with your business, but also leaves adequate room for profit. Profit is what will reward you for your time and skill in creating each item, and the more skill and time it takes to create an item, the more you should charge for it.

People will quickly pass over products that obviously cost too much, but Etsy shoppers know that the products they are getting are either lovingly handmade items or vintage items that have been maintained with the utmost care, and when a shopper sees a quality product, they will be willing to pay what that product as well as your time and skills are worth.

Etsy shoppers are paying for more than just a product—they are paying for the experience of owning a beautifully handcrafted or genuine vintage product that they can treasure for years, knowing that someone talented, passionate and dedicated made it available for them to enjoy.

Business Plan Template

You can search online for resources to help with making the process of writing the business plan easier.One great resource is from U.S. Small Business Administration which provides you with a guide that walks you through each section of your business plan. Their Business Plan Tool will walk you through each step of the process.

Marketing Strategy

Once you have decided what your business represents and how you will manage the money necessary to keep it in operation, you need to plan a detailed marketing strategy that will help Etsy shoppers discover your shop and encourage them to buy your products.

There are many ways to market your Etsy shop— through social media, email marketing, or print marketing, for example. You may want to utilize a combination of the above strategies to achieve maximum exposure, but knowing the benefits of each is the first step to deciding how you will execute your marketing strategy in order to draw in the most customers and referrals.

The most popular form of marketing on Etsy is social media marketing. You can’t depend on shoppers finding your shop just by doing a search on Etsy’s site or Google for the type of product you are selling, so you need to get your name out there by using social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or wherever else you predict your target market will spend their time. Once users find you on social media, it will be easy for them to follow you, share your page, and visit your Etsy shop to buy your products.

Keep in mind some basic best practices for marketing your Etsy shop with social media: post new and engaging content often, direct social media content towards your target market, encourage and incentivize sharing of your social media presence, and do whatever you can to make any social media platform you use an authoritative source of information that your followers will value and trust as a gateway to the main attraction: your Etsy shop.

You should also utilize the unique features of any social media platform you choose to represent you.

For example, on Twitter you can encourage users to tweet about you using uniquely crafted hashtags that are connected to your Etsy shop and products.

On Facebook you can get unique photos of your product shared by asking customers to take pictures of themselves using your product and post them on your Facebook page or their own. Facebook is also a great platform for attractively sharing videos you may have posted on Youtube.

Youtube is a great place to showcase your products in action, or even create fun and educational tutorials for your followers that will teach them about some interesting thing related to your products—how to make pottery, for example.

You should also use social media platforms as a valuable opportunity to network with other Etsy sellers or bloggers who can provide you with valuable support if you return the favor and support them using your own social media platforms.

Offer to review and feature an Etsy seller or blogger’s product on your blog, Facebook or Youtube page if they will do the same for you, especially if it is a product that would complement your own product in some way rather than being in direct competition with it as the same kind of product.

For example, if you make jewelry trees, you could feature another Etsy seller or blogger’s jewelry by photographing it on one of your jewelry trees to show how beautiful the jewelry is and how attractively your jewelry tree displays the jewelry. When Etsy sellers and bloggers support each other, each person wins, because each person gets more coverage and the chance to gain new leads from a group of followers who may have never seen the product they are being shown before, by an Etsy seller or blogger they already know and trust.

Once you have leads and customers—people who have shared their contact information with you personally, or people who have purchased products from you in the past—you will want to keep their attention, and you may choose to do this through email marketing.

People check their email constantly, especially when it is so easy to do with a smartphone, so a carefully planned email marketing campaign can go a long way to encourage customers to come back and see your new products or invite leads to check out your Etsy shop for the first time. An attractive, professional email will include your banner or logo, a carefully worded message you want to share with your leads or customers, and a call to action that asks them to visit your Etsy shop.

Use A/B testing to test out style variations between two emails in order to discover the most effective methods you can use to get your emails opened and bring readers to your Etsy shop with click-throughs.

Old-fashioned print marketing is also a great way to market your Etsy shop. Print business cards and distribute them to friends, family and colleagues, or people you encounter at Etsy related, crafting, or vintage related events you attend. Include a QR code on your business card that people can scan with their smartphones or tablets to immediately be taken to your Etsy shop so they can get to know your business right away and check out your products.

Often, graphic designers will offer business card printing services along with help designing a logo or banner, so you can take advantage of that professional service or get business cards printed through another online company. You may also want to utilize print marketing through use of flyers or pamphlets, as well as coupons you can hand out to leads at events you attend—some with QR codes, perhaps, to support your marketing efforts in a mobile format.

Also include a code people can enter when they visit your Etsy shop to get a discount on their order, and they will be excited to redeem their coupon and explore your Etsy shop looking for the product they want the most or the product that would make a terrific gift for a friend or family member.

Time Management Strategy

Man who is overwhelmed with tasks due to improper time management

Right from the start, you need to decide how much time you are willing or able to dedicate to your Etsy shop.

Is selling on Etsy going to be a hobby you enjoy in your spare time or a full-time career for you?

How many products do you expect to sell per week or per month, and how long do you expect it to take for you to go out and buy materials, make the right amount of products (or procure the necessary supply of products, as the case may be with vintage items), accept orders, ship out products to customers, and maintain a satisfying level of customer service along the way, on a daily or weekly basis?

Once you have your time commitments figured out, you can devise a strategy for how you will maintain the self-discipline to carry out the time commitments required to operate your ideal Etsy shop.

Operating an Etsy shop may seem like a breeze at first glance—working from home or a café, setting your own hours, being able to dress any way you want while “on the job”—but it still requires a lot of hard work. There will not be anyone standing over your shoulder or giving you reminders to make sure you get all of your tasks done in a timely manner—it’s all up to you.

First, you should maintain a planner on your computer to keep track of important appointments and other time commitments you may need to commit to for your Etsy shop. You can schedule trips to the store to buy materials, appointments with graphic designers or photographers, and times of day which you will dedicate to making products or preparing them to be ready to sell, and shipping out products when you have received orders.

Once you have your time planned out, make sure you have chosen a quiet, clean space in which to work. A messy, noisy space will only distract you, and if you are going to be serious about even a part-time commitment to maintaining an Etsy shop, it deserves your full attention on a regular basis. This means no getting distracted watching TV or movies, or spending too much time browsing the internet and not really getting your work done.

Etsy shoppers will be able to tell if you are taking yourself and your Etsy shop seriously, so in order to give them a good impression of your shop, your shop needs to be professional and command respect, which means that you must be a responsible and reliable Etsy seller who shoppers will know they can trust to provide them with the best products and customer service. At the same time, you also shouldn’t let your Etsy shop take over your life. Make a clear separation between “work hours” and “relaxing hours.”

When you’re not “on the clock,” checking on incoming orders or reading emails from shoppers can wait. Operating an Etsy shop is supposed to be fun, but it will quickly become overwhelming if your Etsy shop is all you can think about!

Designing Your Etsy Shop

DAMSEL IN THIS DRESS ETSY STOREFRONT

Once you have crafted a business plan and marketing strategy for your Etsy shop as well as figured out how you will best utilize the time you have available to operate your shop, it’s time to start designing your shop. You will need to write textual content, including not just product descriptions but an introduction to your store, as well as details about shipping and returns. You will need to build upon your branding by providing an eye-catching logo and banner that will set your Etsy shop apart from other shops your potential customers may encounter. You will also need to provide attractive photographs of your items that show the user exactly what they will be getting when they order from you.

Textual Content

Once users have made it onto your Etsy shop page, you need to introduce you shop and share what it is all about. Incorporate your mission statement: what you aim to uniquely contribute by offering your products to the Etsy community. Provide some background on who you are as a seller and what inspires you to create and sell the products you are advertising. What makes you different from the other shops out there, and why should Etsy shoppers support you? Let them know and they will be interested and stay to browse your products. Utilize Etsy’s helpful “sections” option to divide information into “About” and “Policies” sections, so that you can more easily track user activity within your Etsy shop, which you will learn about a bit later in this eBook.

Make sure to tell shoppers all about your products so that they will be able to make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to buy from you.

Come up with creative, descriptive product names that will stick in shoppers’ minds as they are browsing. Describe features and technical details of products in an informative yet concise manner—share measurements, colors, materials used to make the product, and any other details you feel are relevant to each particular product.

Next, tell shoppers why they should buy your product. Answer the key questions that will be running through shoppers’ minds. How can a product of yours meet a need they have in their life? How will the product make them feel when they buy it, then get it in the mail to touch or hold in their hands? How will they feel when they get the chance to admire the product in their own home or wear and bring it with them to work and play each day?

Lastly, remember to sort your products into categories so that shoppers can quickly find the kind of product they need within your Etsy shop.

Shoppers also need to know about payment options, how their orders will be shipped, and your return or exchange policy. Give shoppers as many payment options as possible in order to make buying from you most convenient for them.

The option of paying with any major credit card is a given, but shoppers will love it if you offer Paypal as a payment option as well, because then they don’t even need to hassle with entering in their credit card information—they can just log in to their Paypal account and pay instantly and securely, without worrying about their sensitive financial information being compromised.

Etsy shoppers often expect to be able to return a product for a full refund or exchange it for a new one, which is something to keep in mind when you are outlining your policies. You also need to make it clear whether or not the shopper will need to pay for shipping to return the item or if you will reimburse them for shipping costs.

The more clearly you outline these details, the fewer questions you will get on these points and the more confident shoppers will feel when they are visiting your shop and considering buying from you.

Logos and Banners

It is important to have an eye-catching, professionally designed logo and banner that you can share on your Etsy shop page. This will give Etsy shoppers an impression of what kind of shop you are operating and what kind of quality they can expect from one of your products.

As always, consider your target audience—for older women, you will want a feminine and elegant design, and for younger women, you can go for a look that is more chic and fun. Men will appreciate a masculine and dignified design that will give your name a promise of quality and function. For children, you can go with a design that is playful and brightly colored.

These are just a few ideas—trust your instincts and you are sure to come up with a great banner and logo design that you will be proud to show off on your Etsy page.

If you are experienced in graphic design, you may easily design a logo and banner of your own, but if you are not so experienced in this area then you may want to hire a graphic designer to help you come up with a great logo and banner that meets your advertising needs. This may be a professional graphic designer or perhaps a fellow crafter or vintage seller who is operating an Etsy store of their own.

If there is any kind of trade you can make for their services that can save you money, by all means, take advantage of that. You will be using your logo not only on your Etsy shop, but with any social media platforms you use and perhaps special packaging that you will use to deliver your product to customers.

Photography

Due to the nature of online shopping, you may have only have one way to show users your product before they buy it, and that is through photography. This means you should do your best to provide the most attractive, yet realistic photos of your products possible, so people will have a good idea of what they will be purchasing when they buy things from you. Your Etsy shop can shine with great product photos if you plan your lighting and positioning to show off your products to their best advantage.

If you are not an experienced photographer, you may want to hire a professional photographer to take pictures of your products for you, or you may at least want to ask an experienced Etsy seller you know for advice.

If you are considering being part of the Etsy community, you probably have friends or contacts who are interested in making or selling handmade or vintage items and may have some experience with product photography or photography in general. They may also have a professional camera that you can borrow or that they can use to take pictures for you: a professional camera will product the most dazzling and lifelike photographs, so use the best camera available to you for photographs of your products.

If you are an experienced photographer or want to learn as you go, keep in mind ways you can achieve the best lighting to prepare your products for photography. You may want to use natural light or carefully positioned light boxes and lamps that will accentuate the most attractive features of your product.

Look at successful Etsy sellers’ shops and photographs to see what their pictures look like, and use similar methods for your own photographs. After experimenting with lighting and positioning, you should decide on five final photos you will share for each product. Make sure each photo shows off your product in a different and interesting way that will make the shopper feel like they can reach out and touch the product through the screen or clearly imagine it in their own home.

Once you develop effective ways of taking photographs, you can use those methods again and again with your other products, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time. Some standard photography shots include a close-up shot of a product to show detail, a model shot with someone wearing or using your product, a shot that will show the scale of your product in comparison to something else, some shots of your product from different angles, and picture of how your product will look in the attractive packaging you have designed for it. (If you’re selling clothes, then you may want to investigate taking flatlay photos).

How to Manage Your Etsy Shop

Once you have planned and designed your Etsy shop, it’s time to manage your Etsy shop by incorporating search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, optimizing your shop for Etsy relevancy when users conduct searches, and practicing good customer service habits. Daily managing of your shop will ensure that shoppers have a satisfying experience with your shop, because your shop will be easy for them to find when conducting a search on Google or Etsy, and it will be pleasant for them to interact with you as a seller during your customer and seller relationship.

Search Engine Optimization

If you have some experience creating marketing content online, you are probably familiar with the concept of search engine optimization (SEO) to help your content show up earlier in search results so that people are more likely to see it before other similar content. SEO is often accomplished by strategically placing popular keywords throughout content so that searchers using those keywords will be shown a link to your content before other sites.

To practice effective SEO techniques, it is important to understand how to incorporate keywords throughout content in the most effective way possible within an Etsy shop environment.

One of the most important steps to developing an SEO strategy for your Etsy shop is to come up with a good list of keywords.

A great way to start developing your list of keywords is by pretending to be an Etsy shopper and thinking about the keywords you would expect others to use while searching for a product like yours. Ask yourself the following questions when you put yourself in the mindset of a potential customer:

  • Is the keyword relevant to any products that you’re store is selling or relevant to what your store is about?
  • Will searchers find the product they are looking for on Etsy with the keywords you’ve chosen?
  • Will this traffic potentially result in the searcher making a purchase?

If you can answer “Yes” to all of these questions, then you most likely have a good keyword.

Once you’ve developed a list of keywords, you’ll want to use Google’s Keyword Planner to help you identify the popularity of the keywords on your list as well as to get additional ideas for keywords you may want to consider.

Google's Keyword Planner Tool

You may be able to incorporate these other search terms in the content of your Etsy shop or product descriptions to expand the possibility of users finding your products using alternative search terms this way.

When coming up with your keywords try to be as specific as possible, because the longer and more specific the term, the more likely the searcher is closer to making a purchase. Additionally, these types of keywords (also known as long-tail keywords) typically have less competition, making it easier for your store to rank, both within Etsy as well as Google and other search engines.

Aside from using Google’s Keyword Planner, you can also get keyword ideas from doing a search on Etsy to see what other relevant searches come up – as an example, if you carry multiple hoop earrings, instead of just using “hoop earrings” in your title, you should consider adding details (this is where your long-tail keywords come in) such as  “small silver hoop earrings” and “small gold hoop earrings”.

Etsy Search Example

You can also go to Google and take a look at the related search terms that appear when you plug in a keyword. Again, using “hoop earrings” as an example, when you scroll to the bottom of Google, you’ll notice some suggestions for searches related to your original search. You can then click on those related searches to get new related searches!

Keyword research for Etsy shop

Since the first few words of your product’s title has a large impact on your rankings, make sure to use the keywords from your list when coming up with an item’s title. If you carry similar products, ensure that each product title is unique.

Just make sure your titles aren’t excessively long – aim for approximately 70 characters or less and don’t stuff them with keywords – besides the fact that Google and Etsy frown upon this, you also won’t get a very good click through rate.

Aside from using your keywords in the title, you should also use it naturally in your description as well as for your photos. Google can read photo file names – make sure to use keywords for the title, alt tag, and description.

Tracking Your Site

You can use Etsy’s Shop Stats as well as Google Analytics to see you how many people are finding your Etsy shop through search results, how many views your Etsy shop is getting per day and when they are occurring, which parts of your Etsy shop are being viewed the most (including individual products), how long the average user is spending on different pages or sections of your Etsy shop, and which keywords are being used to lead users to your shop or where users are finding your shop.

Data like this can be very insightful in helping you develop an even more effective SEO strategy and overall marketing strategy in order to drive the most traffic to your Etsy shop.

Optimizing your Shop for Etsy Relevancy

As all experienced Etsy sellers know, Etsy has a particular way of ordering search results for shoppers looking for particular kinds of products. In order to achieve the highest relevancy in an Etsy search, you need to understand the factors that influence how results are ordered in an Etsy search.

Etsy uses a carefully planned system to make sure shoppers get results that are most relevant for the products they are seeking. As mentioned in the Search Engine Optimization section, you should think like a customer to determine what kinds of keywords a customer might search for when seeking your products.

Some things to keep in mind when optimizing for relevancy in Etsy:

  • Renewing a listing when it gets old can help.
  • Shopper search behavior in aggregate (mainly hearts and clicks) can give a boost.
  • The first few two to three words of a product name are typically the most important however sometimes it’s worth moving the phrases around in a title (never keyword stuff).
  • Incorporate keywords into tags accompanying each product description

Search relevancy within Etsy is NOT based on the following:

  • Description
  • Location
  • Punctuation
  • Plurilization/Suffixes – for example earring and earrings are the same
  • Tag order
  • Number of listings in your shop

Guest Blogging

It can take some time before you see traffic coming from search – in the meantime, you should be looking at other ways to increasing traffic to your online store and building brand exposure. One great way to do this is by guest blogging which can help with the following:

  • Increase your brand’s exposure. Every post that you’re able to get published increases the opportunity for readers to read your post and associate your name with your company.
  • Credibility. The more authoritative of a website that you’re able to post on, the better your credibility and the better your chances for being able to contribute to other sites or even being asked to write for a site by its owner.
  • Social media growth. Typically, you’ll be allowed to include your company’s social media profiles with your post. Posts that get exposure on popular sites will typically garner a lot of social shares and will lead to increased visibility to your profiles.

To find the right target blogs to guest post you should find sites related to your Etsy store. For example, if you’re selling “hoop earings” on your Etsy shop, then you’ll want to look for jewelry related blogs in your initial sweep.

There are tons of search strings you can use to find guest posting targets but here are a few to get you started:

  • “your niche” “guest bloggers”
  • “your niche” “guest bloggers wanted”
  • “your niche” “submit guest post”
  • “your niche” “submit a guest post”
  • “your niche” “write for us”
  • “your niche” “become a guest writer”
  • “your niche” “become guest writer”
  • “your niche” “become a contributor”

When pitching site owners for the blogs that you’re looking to guest post on, you should first check to see if they have a guest post policy. If they do, then you can read their guidelines and follow them. If there is no guest post policy, that’s okay. Spend some time looking through the site so that you know if it’s a good fit and have an idea as to what type of post you should pitch. Make sure to personalize your email, pitch a few ideas, and offer links to previously written articles (if you have any) – just make sure to keep it concise as owners of popular blogs typically get inundated with emails and don’t have a lot of time to read through each one.

Customer Service

Having a great product will draw customers in, but great customer service will keep them coming back to buy your product again. Great customer service will also encourage customers to recommend your shop to other shoppers who would surely appreciate the kind of customer service you are able to provide. Positive recommendations automatically give you more leads, who may soon become customers as well if they like what they see and read when they visit your Etsy shop.

This is also why it’s so important to be active on at least one social media channel. Aside from the fact that social media is a great way to generate new leads, it’s also great for providing customer service. Social media is the go-to resource for many consumers looking to connect with a business as it allows for better accessibility.

When you write an informative product description, your job at providing good customer service has already begun. A thoughtful gesture that would be much appreciated by customers is to send an email to each customer after they have purchased a product, just to confirm their order, thank them for buying your product and let them know how they can contact you if they have any questions.

You may also want to send a short email letting the customer know when you have shipped their purchase and when they can expect to receive it. If you get questions from customers about your products, it is an opportunity for you to show that you care about the customer’s needs by promptly and thoroughly answering those questions.

If a customer needs to return or exchange an item for any reason, you should be as accommodating as possible to make the process easy for them. After a customer has received your product, feel free to ask them to leave a review on your Etsy shop page so that you can get some insight on their satisfaction with the product and so other shoppers can learn more about the product from someone who has purchased it first-hand.

It may not always occur to customers to leave a review after purchasing a product, but a gentle suggestion shared with each customer will earn you plenty of reviews, and the more reviews you get, the higher chance your product will receive a good rating and the more credibility you will earn, because shoppers browsing your shop will see that a lot of people have already bought a product from you.

Think about how you’d like to be treated as a customer when you buy something online. The merchant doesn’t have the benefit of being there with you in person, but even online, there are several ways they can show you they care about your needs as a customer and want the customer experience to be as convenient and enjoyable for you as possible.

Think about what kind of gestures you would appreciate as a customer, and share those same gestures with your customer. After all, they could have purchased items from any of the hundreds of thousands of Etsy shops available to them, but they chose your shop, so you should feel incredibly honored and show your customers gratitude for their choice.

Conclusion

Planning, designing and managing an Etsy shop can be a lot of fun, but it is also a lot of hard work. As long as you have solid and effective strategies in place for each step of the way, you can be confident that your Etsy shop will get noticed, your products will get purchased, and you will achieve success as an Etsy seller.

Don’t hesitate to pursue your entrepreneurial dreams, because operating your own Etsy business is something to be immensely proud of from the very beginning. You are your own boss, so all of the pride that goes along with a successful business will belong to you as well as all of the responsibility you will take on to earn your success.

Use that responsibility wisely and you will have a rewarding Etsy experience that will motivate you to keep working hard for yourself each day and sharing your unique products with Etsy shoppers everywhere!

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